Borgo del Tiglio one of Italy’s greatest white wines (& the ancient cult of the linden tree)

tiglio di malborghetto

Above: The famous Tiglio di Malborghetto (in the village of Malborghetto, Udine province, not far from the Austrian border) is believed to be more than 400 years old (image via the Unità Pastorale di Gradisca d’Isonzo).

Since antiquity, the linden treeTilia platyphyllos or Tiglio nostrano, as it is known in Friuli — has been revered for its longevity and the malleability and sturdiness of its wood. (See the excellent verses from Virgil’s Georgics below.)

The name Lindenburg — literally, the linden borough (Lindenberg, Lindenbergh, etc.) — is an expression of northern Europeans’ ancient fascination with it. Throughout Europe, towns and villages are named after this quasi-sacred plant.

borgo del tiglio

Above: Many Italian wine insiders consider Borgo del Tiglio to be one of the country’s greatest white wine producers.

Last Friday in NYC, invited to join a generous group of Nebbiolo collectors who wanted to share some old bottles with me, I brought a bottle of Borgo del Tiglio (Borough of the Linden Tree) 2010 Collio Studio di Bianco, a blend of separately vinified Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friulano, and Riesling Italico, one of the winery’s top wines.

Located in the village of Brazzano in the township of Corna di Rosazzo Cormons (Udine Gorizia province, Friuli), Borgo del Tiglio is relatively unknown among Italian wine appassionati in the U.S.

As far as I know, the wine is only available for sale to consumers in a few northeast corridor markets, thanks to NYC retailers Moore Bros., whose affiliated importer brings the wine to our country.

I was first introduced to the wine by Friulian aesthete Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey a few years ago when Tracie P and I ate at his excellent Frasca in Boulder.

But in Italy, the wines made by Borgo del Tiglio are stuff of legend.

When I mentioned to Francesco Bonfio — Paduan-born, Siena-based and erudite wine retailer, friend, and collector extraordinaire — that I’d be drinking the wine at lunch, here’s what he wrote back:

“Studio di Bianco is made by Nicola Manferrari owner of Borgo del Tiglio. One of the best producers in Collio. I have bottles of his Friulano (at that time it used to be labeled as Tocai Friulano) from the mid 80s. Next time, we’ll taste them together. Marvellous. It is a 30 years old white that shows 6 years aging.”

The wines aren’t cheap but they’re worth every penny.

Here’s what my friend, Master Sommelier Jesse Becker, says about the wines on his retail site:

“Nicola Manferrari founded Borgo del Tiglio in 1981 when he took control of his family’s vineyards. Low yields, strict vineyard selection and meticulous cellar work result in some of the most powerful, intensely ripe and textural wines in Friuli. Monferrari describes his style as ‘beautiful and kindly’. All wines are fermented and aged in 250L barrels.”

Ubi maior, minor cessat: there was no way I could deliver a bottle of Nebbiolo that could hold its own with the bottles opened at Friday’s lunch.

But I hope and believe that Borgo del Tiglio thrilled my hosts as much as it did me with its delicate and focused but muscular minerality and its layers and layers of white and stone fruit.

The following are the verses from Virgil where he praises the wood of the linden tree in his description of the farmer’s tools.

Thanks for reading and enjoying the epistemological implications of oenophilia with me. You see? Wine is just an excuse to dust off my copy of the Georgics! :)

caeditur et tilia ante iugo leuis altaque fagus
stiuaque, quae currus a tergo torqueat imos

Georgics 1.173-4

Now to tell
The sturdy rustics’ weapons, what they are,
Without which, neither can be sown nor reared
The fruits of harvest; first the bent plough’s share
And heavy timber, and slow-lumbering wains
Of the Eleusinian mother, threshing-sleighs
And drags, and harrows with their crushing weight;
Then the cheap wicker-ware of Celeus old,
Hurdles of arbute, and thy mystic fan,
Iacchus; which, full tale, long ere the time
Thou must with heed lay by, if thee await
Not all unearned the country’s crown divine.
While yet within the woods, the elm is tamed
And bowed with mighty force to form the stock,
And take the plough’s curved shape, then nigh the root
A pole eight feet projecting, earth-boards twain,
And share-beam with its double back they fix.
For yoke is early hewn a linden light,
And a tall beech for handle, from behind
To turn the car at lowest: then o’er the hearth
The wood they hang till the smoke knows it well.

Georgics 1.160-75
(translation by J. B. Greenough)

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